I've written about some problems with the concept of public education, and I'm very pleased to read on Opinion Journal that the District of Columbia is poised to begin a voucher program. Amazingly, Democrat Diane Feinstein is on board, but some other Senators who had previously voted in favor of couchers have changed their minds.
Back in 1997, both Republican Arlen Specter and Democrat Mary Landrieu voted for D.C. vouchers, though the move was later vetoed by Bill Clinton.
But now, at the moment of truth, with a president in the White House who has made clear his eagerness to make such a bill a reality, Sens. Specter and Landrieu upset a critical Appropriations Committee vote by switching from yea to nay. What makes their flip-flop especially nasty is that this move to undercut choice to the overwhelmingly black and Latino students of the district comes from two white senators who each chose private schools for their own children.
Even a child can spot the contradiction. Outside the committee's meeting room last week, nine-year-old Mosiyah Hall, a D.C. public school student himself, politely asked Sen. Landrieu where she sent her own children to school. "Georgetown Day," came the response, a reference to one of Washington's most exclusive private schools. Mosiyah's mother says an obviously agitated Sen. Landrieu then came over to a group of local mothers to explain that a voucher would be no help for them here, because even with the $7,500 voucher this bill offers, they still couldn't afford Georgetown Day.
"It was an ugly moment," says Virginia Walden-Ford, head of D.C. Parents for School Choice and one of the moms demonstrating.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the government has no business being involved with education. Not the federal government, not the state government, not even the local government (although that would be the least objectionable).
Vouchers are a step in the right direction, but ultimately the education system will need to be privatized if it's ever going to produce capable and effective workers and citizens. Government does almost everything poorly and inefficiently. It's not any one person or party's fault, it's just the nature of the beast. Washington DC, spends more per student than the highest-spending state ($15,122 for DC, $12,454 for New Jersey, $8,521 average for America), yet DC students are the worst readers in the country -- even worse than non-native English speakers from Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa! California's school system is all screwed up too, and not for lack of funding.
The government bureaucracy has failed, and demonstrated that it is incapable of handling the essential task of educating the next generation. Won't somebody think of the children?